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Rhinos Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

In my work as the Indian rhinoceros keeper at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, I have the privilege to work with our rhino, a 37-year-old female named Randa, every day. She has given me a love and appreciation of her magnificent species that I could have never imagined, had I never known her. I am excited and honored to be able to interact with her daily, and feel as though she is the epitome of a true "gentle giant."
Randa from the side Randa from the front
Randa, magnificent and gentle

Seeing Oudry's rhinoceros painting based on Clara as part of the Oudry's Painted Menagerie exhibit made me wonder what Clara's life must have been like. In the 18th century she was, as Randa is today, a true ambassador of her species at a time when animals were mostly viewed as curiosities. The endless traveling and presentation of her to the public was certainly not the least stressful existence for her, but it enabled the masses to catch a glimpse of her uniqueness and majesty. Those who arrived to possibly see the "ferocious beast" seem to have come away with an appreciation of the beautiful "gentle giant." This change in attitude seemed to be reflected in the flurry of memorabilia that resulted from her tour across Europe—Clara-mania, or rhino-mania, so to speak.

My hope has always been that all captive rhinos, Clara in her time, and Randa in ours, will cause the public to come away with an appreciation of and fascination with these amazing animals. This newfound respect, in turn, should ensure that they will want to make certain that all rhinos have a place on this earth to roam free and exist in peace, forever.

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